The Complex Challenge of Transporting Pets

A nail-biter pet transport expertise is an more and more widespread a part of Foreign Service life. Here are some tips on the method.

BY MELISSA MATHEWS

Jennifer Nichols’ son, Hunter, with Charcoal, the household canine. An FS officer, Nichols is doing a fellowship on Capitol Hill and has drafted laws to ease the burden of the CDC canine import ban on authorities staff.
Courtesy of Jennifer Nichols

Ask nearly any member of the Foreign Service neighborhood to call probably the most troublesome, nerve-racking a part of a permanent-change-of-station transfer, and one reply is sure to bubble up: transporting pets. Flying cats and canine is dear, troublesome to rearrange and dangerous. In latest years, it’s solely turn out to be tougher.

At the peak of COVID-19 in 2020, one Foreign Service household paid $14,000 to get three pets to the United States for residence depart. It’s greater than they’d ever paid earlier than, primarily due to restricted pandemic flight schedules from their put up.

Making the preparations to take a pet to put up can take months from begin to end.

When residence depart ended, the household headed again to the airport with confirmed pet reservations, regulation carriers and required well being certificates destined for his or her subsequent abroad task. To their shock, the airline refused to board a number of the animals.

“The resultant scramble to get my big dog off the plane as cargo, rent cars, pack the animals into said cars, and drive back to our home drained us of any reserves we may have been running on [during the pandemic],” they are saying. “We curtailed the next day.”

A nail-biter pet transport expertise is an more and more widespread a part of Foreign Service life. “For a number of years, there have been some challenges,” says Maureen Johnston, of the Foreign Service Institute’s Overseas Briefing Center, who’s broadly thought to be the State Department guru on pet transportation. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of changes impacting the preparation time and costs involved for many pet owners has increased dramatically.”

Best Laid Plans

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Retired FSO Susan Johnson, at proper as an FS child within the early Sixties, with faculty buddy Suzanne Potter and Tigger, the canine the household introduced from Ethiopia to France and Belgium. Johnson says pet journey was much less bureaucratic in these days.
Courtesy of Susan Johnson

Comparing one pet PCS (everlasting change of station) to a different is like evaluating a chihuahua with a bull mastiff. As is the case so usually in Foreign Service life, the reply to learn how to transition abroad with an other-than-human member of the family is: it relies upon.

The course of begins when a Foreign Service member is bidding on the following task. The suitability of a put up for the household pet is commonly one of many standards, alongside points like faculties and air high quality, that households or people use to resolve the place they’re prepared to serve. They analysis embassy housing, host authorities legal guidelines and high quality of veterinary care. Making the preparations to take a pet to put up can take months from begin to end, together with securing required vaccines, a rabies titer check and paperwork.

Most pet house owners have three paths to get their furriest relations abroad: as airline cargo—the costliest choice; as accompanied baggage—an additional piece of checked baggage; or within the cabin—if the pet is sufficiently small to suit beneath the seat in its provider.

Those choices are dwindling. Over the previous decade, many main American carriers, like United, have restricted or stopped flying animals within the maintain as cargo or accompanied baggage. And in 2020 the U.S. government ruled that airways are now not required to accommodate “emotional support animals” within the passenger cabin. (Trained and licensed service animals are nonetheless allowed.) In summer time 2021 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention largely banned dogs from greater than 100 nations. Diplomats touring on official authorities orders can often meet the complicated necessities to repatriate their canine, however the CDC ban continues to sow confusion and difficulties with the airways.

New for the 2022 switch season, OBC is advising pet house owners transiting the European Union, which hosts sometimes pet-friendly airways like Lufthansa and KLM, to examine country-specific requirements for transiting its airports. Some nations might require a transiting pet to satisfy the identical necessities as they’d to enter, particularly if they’re coming from a country the E.U. considers high-risk for rabies.

“The pet shipping landscape will continue to be challenging,” Johnston says.

Who’s in Charge?

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Johnson’s father, a Foreign Service officer, touring with Indie on Pan Am circa 1974.
Courtesy of Susan Johnson

Shipping pets internationally consists of navigating a bunch of presidency rules and entities. First, there’s the matter of learn how to pay for it. The Fly America Act legally limits diplomats to flying on government-funded tickets on U.S. carriers or codeshares, which can not provide one of the best routing or airways for animals. In latest years, the federal government has supplied some flexibility with price developing—or making use of the worth of 1 ticket to a different airline or routing—for pet journey, however the ticket nonetheless has to satisfy Fly America necessities. Transfer allowances can be utilized to reimburse vacationers for restricted pet transportation prices, together with quarantine or transport agent costs.

Importing and exporting pets is essentially regulated by the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, however different authorities businesses together with Customs and Border Patrol, Fish and Wildlife Service and the CDC can play a task.

When exporting pets from the United States, APHIS says probably the most important doc is Form 7001, the export well being certificates. It have to be accomplished by an APHIS-certified U.S. veterinarian, and infrequently then shipped off to an APHIS regional workplace to be endorsed by a workers vet. Many nations have their very own kinds and rules, as properly; and the APHIS website features a searchable device for all identified import necessities from different nations. When doubtful, APHIS says, vacationers ought to examine with the embassy of their vacation spot nation.

Bringing pets again to the United States was as comparatively easy as a proof of rabies vaccination, however that each one modified with the CDC guidelines applied in summer time 2021. Now, canine coming from nations designated as excessive danger for rabies should get hold of a allow from the CDC—a course of that takes months from begin to end and consists of an annual titer check, together with proof that the traveler is on authorities orders.

Earlier this yr, when the specter of invasion by Russia led to the evacuation of embassy households from Ukraine, households serving in Kyiv endured layers upon layers of stress: wrapping up affairs, arranging education and housing within the United States, saying goodbye to associates and worrying about family members staying behind as important embassy workers. Because Ukraine is taken into account by the CDC as excessive danger for rabies, securing an import allow and making journey preparations for the household canine added to the extraordinary pressures.

Bringing pets again to the U.S. was as comparatively easy as a proof of rabies vaccination, however that each one modified with the CDC guidelines of summer time 2021.

“The knock-on effects of the ban resulted in members of the U.S. military and government paying thousands of dollars for tests, additional uncertainty and, for many, deep pain as they contemplated being separated from their dogs,” says one embassy member of the family. Kyiv was lucky to have a CDC consultant posted to the embassy who helped to liaise with the company to expedite permits. Ultimately, almost 70 embassy pets have been efficiently evacuated from Ukraine on a constitution flight and reunited with their households.

The Embassy Kyiv member of the family says of the CDC allow course of, “In an evacuation situation like ours, where families are focused on leaving quickly under the threat of violence, this shouldn’t be the primary focus of our community.”

Not Your Parents’ PCS

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Mayo, the Honigstein household canine, was adopted in Tbilisi, Georgia, proper earlier than the CDC introduced its canine import ban. Now the household worries about getting him residence on the finish of their tour.
Courtesy of Melissa Honigstein

Susan Johnson, a retired diplomat, former AFSA president and now president of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training, grew up within the Foreign Service. She recollects transport canine from put up to put up as a baby. Back then, transport crates generally needed to be constructed from lumber fairly than ordered from Amazon. “But there was much less bureaucracy,” she says, “and traveling with a family dog was not as stressful as it is today.” She provides: “Reunions at the baggage claim area were just as heartfelt and emotional.”

With a colleague, Johnson established the Facebook group Foreign Affairs Friends of Animals Network, which has almost 2,000 members. She says FAFAN was simply getting began when Cairo evacuated in 2011, forcing embassy pet house owners to depart their animals beneath unsure circumstances. Since then, it’s turn out to be an ad-hoc assist community for folks making an attempt to navigate the complexities of pet journey: airline pet reservations canceled on the final minute, questions on crate necessities or warmth restrictions on flying, and testimonials concerning the significance of pet companionship.

The CDC ban has additionally galvanized the Foreign Service neighborhood, which has been signing petitions and reaching out to members of Congress to assist. Jennifer Nichols, a Foreign Service officer and Pearson Fellow within the House of Representatives, drafted laws to ease the burden of the CDC necessities on authorities personnel. The HENRY Act, which stands for “Helping Employees Navigate Rabies Regulations from over Yonder,” seeks to exempt Foreign Service personnel from the canine ban and supply some extra lodging for presidency staff touring with their pets, whereas supporting the CDC’s purpose of preserving America rabies free.

For many pet house owners, it looks like the principles are altering in the midst of the sport. “We got our very first dog last year, about a month before the CDC announced its ban,” says Melissa Honigstein, an embassy member of the family posted to Tbilisi, Georgia. “We HONIGSTEINhad always resisted getting a dog, but caved because this sweet stray chose us and put his life entirely in our hands.”

She says: “We wouldn’t have adopted him if the CDC had made their announcement a month earlier. We’re deeply dreading the financial and emotional price we’re going to have to pay to get him to our next post.”

Supporting Pets, Supporting People

With all the issue, it makes you marvel why round 40 % of Foreign Service members journey with pets (based on AFSA). Both pet house owners and psychological well being professionals say animals generally is a important wellness element to a nomadic life.

“The psychological benefits of pet ownership are well documented, and are even more important in our mobile lifestyle,” says Jane Vanelli, a Foreign Service partner and licensed therapist who counsels expats with the Truman Group. “Pets can ease loneliness, provide structure and a greater sense of purpose for both kids and adults. The psychological benefits far outweigh the negatives.”

Pets are important to authorities efforts to recruit and retain a top-notch diplomatic service. The subject has the eye of AFSA and the State Department.

“As much as we can, the OBC is supporting our pet owners,” says FSI’s Johnston. “We understand the important role pets play as our community transitions from post to post.”

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Melissa Mathews, a Foreign Service member of the family, is the founding father of Spring Green Communications and a former journalist. Her household consists of husband George; three human kids; a diplo-dog, Evie; and a Jordanian avenue cat, Olive.

 

Read More…

  • “Flying with Fido,” by Melissa Matthews, The Foreign Service Journal, October 2021
  • “Dogs in Africa,” by Robert Gribbin, The Foreign Service Journal, September 2015
  • “Flying with Our Pets,” by Maureen Johnston, The Foreign Service Journal, May 2012

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